The figures speak for themselves…each year in the UK alone, people suffer with over 100,000 strokes. That works out at a staggering, one stroke every five minutes.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month and across the country there are thousands of events being run by the Stroke Association to help raise money, raise awareness and help support those people who have been affected by stroke – whether that be stroke survivors themselves, or the friends and family of a stroke victim.
Tomorrow, my 7-year old daughter and I are taking part in a fundraiser that will see approximately 100 people run the Petersfield Heath 5k, helping to raise money for this incredible charity. The event has been organised for the third year in a row by the local running group, the runnyhoneys, and it is hoped that on top of raising money it will also help alert people to the signs of stroke and possible preventative measures they can take to lower the risk of a stroke in future.
To help with this, there will be a stall inviting people to have their blood pressure checked there and then, something which is incredibly important as high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke. Blood pressure checks are quick and painless, and are often included in regular health checks. However, with a high number of people still not registered with a GP and with the naive belief of many that if they’re young, fit and eat a healthy diet it makes them immune to everything, it is more important than ever to spread the message that high blood pressure can affect EVERYONE!
If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, call your GP. You can also look out for the signs of stroke using the following acronym:
F – Face drooping – fallen on one side?
A – Arm Weakness – can they raise them?
S – Speech Difficulty – is it slurred?
T – Time to call 999
If there is any doubt in your mind at all, then make the call. Don’t take the risk, because every second counts.
What is a Stroke?
Blood pressure plays a huge role in the risk of stroke; the higher it becomes the greater the pressure on the arteries; making them weaken, narrow and become less flexible. A stroke is the result of a blood vessel becoming blocked by a clot, this is known as an ischemic stroke, or if it bursts, known as a haemorrhagic stroke, and both of these are more likely to happen from the damage caused by high blood pressure. If either of these happen, the brain becomes starved of oxygen, and if this happens over a prolonged time, the end result is death.
Merely a few minutes without oxygen is enough to leave a person with long lasting effects: paralysis, impaired vision, speech difficulties as well as movement and memory loss. Stroke survivors need a lot of support and therapy to help them lead as normal a life as possible, and this will vary from person to person as well as how severe the stroke was.
Know your Blood Pressure
Having your blood pressure checked takes just a few minutes, but it could save your life. It is measured by two readings:
- Systolic pressure – when the heart beats
- Diastolic pressure – when it relaxes
You can either invest in a blood pressure monitor to use at home (this is great for keeping a regular eye on things and noticing any changes), or by asking your GP, who will also be able to explain exactly what your reading means and whether any action needs to be taken to help lower it.
Mandy Souter, Six Month Review Coordinator at the Stroke Association, explains:
“High blood pressure is often referred to as the silent killer because it doesn’t present any symptoms and many people have no idea their health may be at risk. A simple and painless test could prevent a devastating stroke.”
You can of course do certain things to help lower your blood pressure – lifestyle changes, such as taking regular exercise, cutting down on alcohol, quitting smoking and eating a healthy balanced diet will benefit you, but sometimes you may need more than this and in that instance medication is the way forward.
As I’ve mentioned in another recent article, looking after yourself for the sake of your family, friends and indeed you, is so important. Simple, regular checks are absolutely crucial to living a long, happy and healthy life. Do something about it today!
You can check out the Stroke Association website to find an event happening near you or contact The Stroke Helpline on 0303 303 3100.